Workshop Updates 2017

You may have noticed some changes to the work room since you’ve come back from winter break, and I wanted to run over all of them so you know where things have gone, and why.

Item 1:

The large material shelf that was used for laser cutter materials has been replaced with a rolling flat stock cart: 

This cart was designed to hold materials primarily for the laser cutter- plywood, acrylic, and maybe some cardboard. Primary rule here- if it doesn’t fit in the cart, don’t store it in the work room. Our space is small, so we need to be efficient and considerate of others who might need the space while working. Also, take note of the “WOOD” trash can next to the cart:

We are going to compost wood scrap waste from the shop into a special trash can on the loading dock, so please put all wood waste into that bin.

Item 2: 

The drill bits, saw blades, rules and painting supplies have been moved into the former material storage drawers, which are now located under the work table:
The idea here was to clear up space on the peg board and tool shelves below to make tools more organized and accessible. The drawers should be labeled with everything that goes inside, but you may need to add/modify labels as things get moved around in the lab. 

Rules, levels, geometric guides and calipers are stored in these drawers now, along with paintbrushes and rollers.


Item 3:

New dust collection is installed below the bandsaw/sander table.

This was a very hacked together solution, but on the upside it cost the lab zero dollars, and it mostly works to pull excess dust away from the belt sander and band saw. Please use the power strip to turn on the tools and vacuum, and turn them off when you are finished.

Item 4:

The dust collector is now mounted to the wall above the belt sander. 

This saves space, and hopefully concentrates the effort of the filter system over the some of the tools that generate the most fine dust particles. Make sure to turn this on with the remote, found on the wall above the sander.

Item 5:

Non-combustible paints, solvents and glues are stored on a shelf in the window near the work table:

This clears space near/around the flammables cabinet, which is still located underneath the bandsaw. I might try and make some doors for this shelf to keep dust out.

Item 6:

Clamps now live below the tool shelf.

I took some threaded rod we had laying around the lab, bent it to shape, and fitted it into the power tool shelf- hopefully this accommodates clamps a bit better than the previous wall solution, which has since been removed.

Item 7:

Fastener storage has been relabeled and reorganized:

Our screws, bolts, nuts and other hardware were basically in total chaos, so in the ultimate moment of masochistic glee, I reorganized them. We’ll see how that goes.

Alright, back to Blowing Things Up!


Summer at the BTU

Things have quieted down over the summer, but that doesn’t mean nothing’s happening in the lab! Lots of students have still come by to work on projects, and we have an ongoing class as well as an upcoming workshop.

A few of our members are working on an entry for the Autonomous Vehicle Competition. So far that means we’ve hacked a razor scooter into a precarious speed demon! We need all the help we can get, so if you’re interested in joining us (and maybe riding a cool car), email Cicada ( to be added to the email list.

Kristof working on our car for the Autonomous Vehicle Competition

The Arduino class is ongoing and meets most Wednesdays from 3:30 to 5:30. Check the calendar for a more detailed schedule! While the class is several projects in, all work is done out of a Sparkfun guide so you can catch up pretty quickly. The class requires the Sparkfun Inventor’s Kit, but there is no cost and no prerequisites. Email Wayne ( for more information.

Last but not least, there will be a beginner’s soldering workshop on Monday, 7/24 from 3PM to 5:30PM. Join us and make your own light-up badge, just like the ones from the Red Hat Summit! No prior experience required, and we’ll provide everything you need to learn. Hope to see you there!

Midi Gloves by Kristof

Kristof created these gloves in the Wearables class taught in the BTU Lab. The gloves have 10 pressure sensors and flex sensors (one for each digit) that act as an interface to control the music.


For an added bonus, another student in the class, Teddy, created a boombox jacket. Kristof plugged his computer into the jacket for wearable speakers!

Find out more on Kristof’s blog.

DIY Video Lights

How I Made These Video Lights for Less Than $10

Last summer I found nearly 100 LED strips in a dumpster behind Target. They were embedded into display case racks, but after a bit of hacking I was able to get them out. The really exciting thing about them was that they ran off of 12 volts – think of all the incredible uses! I started making replacement turn signals and running lights for my car last fall, but gave up before finishing… But that’s another story.

Anyways, I had a ton of cool LED strips to play with. And I wanted to make some video lights. So I did.

Find the rest of the steps and photos on Cooper’s blog

The Uncertainty Principle

“The Uncertainty Principle” is a work by Abhishek Narula, constructed in the BTU lab.

An distance finder mounted on the piece detects the observer, starting a rotation of gears which in turn create a unique geometric shape. Irregularity in the position and size of the gears guarantee a new image each time the piece is approached.

“The Uncertainty Principle” uses an infrared range finder, an Arduino microcontroller, 2 stepper motors and a gears cut out of acrylic using the BTU lab laser cutter.

Abhishek will probably build one for you, but only if you can pay him in 24K gold ingots.